This conversation from the movie Before Sunset provides a reason why the people who provide the little achievements of the day should be resting on Mandela Day.
Céline: Yes, of course. (Hands him a cigarette.) Um, here. (He takes the cigarette and taps it three times on the table.) In my field, I see these people that … (Hands him her cigarette so he can light the one she has given him.) … Uh, sorry … come into it with big idealist visions of becoming the new leader that will create a better world. They enjoy the goal, but not the process!
Céline: But the reality of it is that the true work of improving things is in the little achievements of the day. And that’s what you need to enjoy, just in that field.
Jesse: What, what do you mean, exactly?
Céline: Well, for example, I was working for this organisation that helped villages in Mexico. And their concerns was how to get the pencils sent to the kids in these little country schools. It was not about big revolutionary ideas, it was about pencils. I see the people that do the real work and what’s really sad, in a way, is that … the people who are the most giving, hard working and capable of making this world better, usually don’t have the ego and ambition to be a leader. They don’t see any interest in superficial rewards, they don’t care if … if their name ever appear in the press. They actually enjoy the process of helping others, they’re in the moment.
But, the amazing people that run the trauma unit, provide counselling, raise funds, take the extra steps in schools and hospitals will probably not take the time to rest. The activists that make it easy for us to give money, because our time is so limited. Their commitment is of a different scale, built on a strength that many of us cannot have. There is a moral and ethical strength in facing poverty and inequality each day. Analysts like me write about poverty and inequality — sometimes with distance, more often with activism intended — and the real test is whether we can face the daily realities and develop ideas that help the activists who run development programmes.
I hope these people rested on Mandela Day and gave a little time to their family and friends.
(This post appeared first appeared on my blog, which hopefully becomes a learning diary.)